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COVID, Conversations, Community and Chatham FC

Rebekah Valero-Lee covid-19

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During difficult times, we know how valuable it is to talk. Mental health first aider and Morson employee, Russell Kimble from our London branch, has embarked on a community initiative with his local football club Chatham Town FC.

As a qualified mental health first aider and long-term supporter of the club, Russell, is making himself available to anyone in the local community whose mental health is suffering, or, who simply feels like they need someone to ease their isolation.

The club want to ensure that their supporters and loved ones feel they have someone to talk to and Russell has been able to lend his expertise. In addition, Russell is running his own support groups and holds regular mental health seminars with hospital patients and key workers.

We spoke to Russell to find out more about the initiative, how he's helping his local community and his own mental health challenges:

Chairman of Chatham Football Club, Kevin Hake, and his brother, General Manager, Gary Hake have always been pillars of the community and there are always initiatives going on at the club to support local charities or good causes. Whether it be collecting donations for the homeless, or bucket collections for Age UK, there is always "more than a football match" going on. Having seen the services they were offering since the country went into lockdown, such as food donations being collected and delivered out to anyone requiring any help, as well as any of the community who need any errands doing, I thought it would be a good idea to volunteer my services to them in the skills that have been embraced by Morson in the field of mental health. This decision was easy to make having watched Ged Mason, Morson CEO, in his weekly video encouraging all employees to volunteer if and where possible.

So, as a qualified mental health first aider, I contacted the club and offered my services. The initiative has now been running for two weeks and one of my duties is to contact all the supporters of the club who are classed as vulnerable or over the age of 70. I ring them weekly to check in and generally have a chat about how things are going for them to see if there is anything that we can do to make their life that little bit easier, this could be anything from helping them with shopping to assisting with DIY. Of course, all whilst respecting physical distancing measures.  Obviously, a lot of the talk is about the common denominator, Chatham Town Football Club, which they are all so passionate about! I then send a report back to Gary and Kevin and they act on anything that we have discussed. The initiative has been mutually beneficial, giving me a new lease of life as I enjoy listening to all the stories and sharing memories of our wonderful football club. 

The mental health support and the club in general has won praise of supporters, local councillors and MPs who have complimented our approach and activity during this time.

The mental health support is available to the wider community and we have promoted the mental health initiative via social media to allow anyone, not just Chatham Fans, to contact me if they are feeling low, just need someone to talk to or for signposting to other help. This is like the role I carry out at Morson as a mental health first aider. I'm pleased to say that this has gone down extremely well and I have managed to help people in need who have been feeling lonely and isolated. I listen and empathise, before signposting them to any other resources that I feel would be necessary and helpful. Sometimes just a voice at the end of the line or a quick Zoom call has been enough to help them feel "normal" again. 

These are really tough times for everyone, myself included. I have only been out of the house 5 times since March 12th due to having a weakened immune system post sepsis, so, in honesty my mental health has not been at its best. Knowing I can help others really helps me and your spirits lift when something positive has come from talking to someone, and you know you have made a little difference to someone's life, however small. That is why I am lucky to be surrounded by excellent family whether they be blood related, Morson or Chatham Town Football Club #InItTogether

Russell's contribution to his community is truly inspiring and is testament to the spirit of his local football club, who have pulled together a team that will support its community on the frontline during the current crisis. Russell will be discussing his mental health initative on Radio Kent this morning.

If you require support you can reach Russell on russellkimble@gmail.com or check out Chatham's latest campaigns on Twitter